“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” ~ Maggie Kuhn, Social Activist
When we allow for vulnerability and reach out to others, offering our love, offering our real self, and people ignore, shame, or reject us, it is easy to feel crushed. It is easy to decide to let that feeling of being crushed keep us from showing up.
And then it feels like self-preservation to withdraw and shut down—to lock that door to our heart. We are embarrassed because we dared to think we were worthy of connection and love and that person’s reaction (or lack thereof) seems to have proven those things untrue.
But remember that when we do shut down and withdraw from life, love, and people, we also withdraw from the self. We shut down our connection not only to other people and their love, we also shut down our connection to source and to our big “S” self.
Brene Brown’s research has shown us that when we numb the bad things, we also numb the good stuff too. We cannot selectively numb ourselves.
So that act of extreme courage it takes to allow yourself to be vulnerable again after being rejected is actually an essential, necessary act. It is what we must do—unless we want to end up walking through life like a zombie.
It has to be done. We have to allow vulnerability again. Even in the face of possible repeated rejection. Otherwise, we cannot live that wholehearted, albeit painful, life we desire—because we would be closing the door to joy along with the pain.
And what about those people who continue to reject and shame me? Why would I continue to be around them? And are they really rejecting me or is that just the story I am making up in my own head?
In her book, Rising Strong, Dr. Brown introduces a brilliant life hack that has proven so very useful, simple and non-threatening. She talks about how it might be beneficial to do a bit of spelunking into our first, knee-jerk reaction to find out what button is actually being pushed. Then, instead of choosing to believe those stories and be angry/hurt/shamed, she suggests we (kindly) share the stories we are making up in our own minds.
She even suggests we use those very words, “The story I’m making up in my head when I felt you mentally withdraw from me is that you think I’m a bad mother because I forgot it was my day to pick up the kids.”
Then the other person is invited to share the story they are making up in their head. This hack is proving itself invaluable, because it means I don’t have to accuse anyone of anything. Instead, I am readily admitting I am probably not correct and please correct me if that is the case, but here’s what my over-active left amydala is telling me.
So instead of an accusation, it becomes a conversation about how real and vulnerable we are trying to be and how we are sometimes incorrect about each other, about life, about how your brain works differently from mine—and about how I fit into your life, thoughts, and heart.
Because I am finding when I share my made-up stories, I discover that they are mostly incorrect. So it’s not that you think I am a bad mom. Instead, you explain, you were preoccupied in thinking about the kids’ pick-up schedule and whether you could manage to pick them up one more day a week in order to give me some more wiggle room in my own schedule.
In other words, you were actually trying to help me.
What stories are you making up in your own head—about me, about yourself, about your partner, your boss, your child, the friend who seemed curt with you the last time you talked?
A version at author’s blog: The Story I am Making Up in My Head.
Author: Grace Cooley
Editor: Catherine Monkman